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The Creative Power of Dreams: conference report

31 May

With abject apologies to Ira Barouch, from whom I solicited this guest post, at long last I’m posting his report on the New England Regional Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)—which took place one long year (and a few days) ago. Two main reasons for my delay: The article happened to come to me just a few days after I had to move out of the apartment I had lived in for 26 years because my landlord needed to sell it (and I was still deep in trying to find a new place), so life was rather chaotic for quite a while. Also, a synchronistic typo occurred as I was doing a light edit of the piece. It occurred in the paragraph after the one on Kabbalah and dreams. Intending to type an em dash (Alt-0-1-5-1 on the number keypad when using Windows), I accidentally typed something I never have before or since: ק, a character I recognized as a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Because I’d heard of the Kabbalistic use of a numerology system called gematria, I emailed the friend who had told me about it for help in deciphering a potential gematria meaning of this little synchronicity. He was on his way out of the country, and at that point, I’m embarrassed to say, procrastination set in on both following up with him later and getting Ira’s post posted.

A small saving grace for me: Ira’s report has timeless relevance because of the subject matter. It also has timely relevance, because several of the people who presented at the New England conference will be presenting at IASD’s annual conference next week (June 3–8) in Berkeley, California: Linda Yael Schiller, Tzivia Gover, Curtiss Hoffman, and Deirdre Barrett. So Ira’s report can serve as a bit of a preview of the upcoming conference. Continue reading

Tikkun olam TV

24 May

It’s Thursday night, which has been a great TV-viewing night for me this season. First at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Missing on ABC (channel 7 in NYC), with Ashley Judd as a middle-aged ex-CIA operative kicking butt all over Europe to find her kidnapped teenage son, without (implausibly) having lost any of her dexterity, quickness, or endurance. Then at 9 p.m., Touch, Fox’s (channel 5’s) new Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, in which he’s the rather morose and insecure (i.e., anti–Jack Bauer) father of an autistic 12-year-old, Jake. And finally, at 10 p.m. on NBC (channel 4), Awake, a superbly imaginative cop show starring Jason Isaacs.

Missing aired its season finale last week. It has neither New York nor dream content, so enough said here about that series. Awake takes place in L.A., but hey, the LAPD detectives put an ex–New York couple into witness protection in one episode, and anyway, Awake is all about dreams.

Awake, or not?

"Awake," on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

“Awake,” on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

His shrinks say not, he says always. Detective Britten has been in an accident that has killed either his wife or his teenage son. Carrying on with life, he wakes up with his wife, goes to sleep, wakes up having his son alive. Always alternating. The psychiatrist in his wife-survived reality tell him, “I assure you, this isn’t a dream,” and he replies, “That’s exactly what the other shrink says”—the psychiatrist in the son-survived reality. Both shrinks keep urging him to accept that his other “existence” is just a dream, a way of denying the loss. “I have no interest in getting better,” he tells them; as it is now, he still has his wife and he still has his son—just not at the same time Continue reading

Root shock

14 Apr

[This post was originally titled “Where (Somebody) Hamlet led me next”]

I know these “little synchronicities” can seem to get out of control, but I like to record them, because the accumulation becomes impressive even if the individual connections are so-so.

I wanted to dress up the long “‘Hamlet’ and hamlets” post with one more image, so I went looking for one of the green road signs mentioned in the Wikipedia article that I quoted from (search term: hamlet “road sign” “new york”). What I got instead was a lot of links to “Newest Hacked Road Sign Warns Of New York’s Imminent Demise” and simpler variations on the theme “New York Is Dying.” This strikes me as a small synchronicity because, just yesterday, as I was searching the New York Daily News site for something entirely different, I came upon a small, oddly curated slide show titled “New York nabes dying.” The fact that this expresses the feeling that’s had me thinking of leaving for a long time is a bigger synchronicity (“meaningful coincidence”) for me.

It’s a feeling apparently shared by a number of people who blogged about the hacked “New York is dying” electronic road sign (and made T-shirts, maternity shirts, and tank tops of it). One blogger agreeing with the sign’s sentiment linked to a 2009 conference on a concept I’d never heard of before: the Serial Displacement Conference of the New York Academy of Medicine Working Group on Serial Displacement. Continue reading

Montague Ullman’s influence lingers at publication parties

11 Mar

On what’s probably the last day of vaguely winter weather of 2011–2012’s vaguely winter season, I’m getting back to work here by writing about a holiday party I attended at the other end of the season, in December.  More to the point, about the books I received from the party host, Cosimo.

Appreciating Dreams, by Montague Ullman

Cosimo, a specialty publisher in New York City (whose owner is a Dutch expat),  does “publishing on demand” in several categories. In 2006, Cosimo republished Appreciating Dreams,

in connection with a seminal 2005 talk by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Montague Ullman (1916–2008). The Ullman Method of group dreamwork has widely influenced how people work together to understand their dreams. Appreciating Dreams is the “manual” for the Ullman Method.

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola's

Understanding Dreams, by Markku SiivolaCosimo gave out gift bags at the party, and some of the bags included a just-published book by Finnish psychologist Markku Siivola, a friend and student of Monte Ullman’s. That book is a restatement and introduction of the Ullman Method, titled Understanding Dreams: The Gateway to Dreams Without Dream Interpretation. Markku and I met at one of the weekend-long dream group dream leadership trainings that Monte used to conduct in his home in Ardsley, New York. That weekend afforded a convincing demonstration of the Ullman Method’s ability to be just as insight-inducing and satisfying for group members as for the person whose dream they’re working on: at some point in using the Ullman Method on a dream I’d brought, both Markku and I were deeply affected, each for our own reasons. So I’m particularly looking forward to reading his take on the method. Continue reading

PsiberDreaming Conference

2 Oct

The 10th annual PsiberDreaming Conference (PDC) of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) is running full steam. The conference started last Sunday and continues actively until next Sunday (October 9). After that, the papers and discussion threads, contest instructions and submissions, remain available on a read-only basis for two weeks. Conducted entirely online, the conference goes on 24 hours a day, and it enables copious interaction not only with the presenters but other attendees.

This year, the emphasis (although not exclusively) is on lucid dreaming. (There’s also lots of discussion, and some papers about, lucid waking.)  It’s a fun and enlightening investment of time, even if you arrive a week late!

Two IASD members from NYC are presenting: Lou Hagood’s delightful paper went up for viewing today (Sunday, 10/2). Lou is a psychoanalyst and dream group leader who writes a blog called Playing with Dreams; I thoroughly enjoyed his workshop on that topic at last year’s IASD conference in Asheville, North Carolina. His playful yet profound PDC paper relates the question he incubated a dream about—“What’s My Lucidity?”—and the follow-up incubations and dreams that came after. Inspiring!

Tomorrow, Judy Gardiner’s “Dreaming Beyond Ourselves” gets posted. It’s based on a stunning series of dreams that flooded her with information from various fields of science about which she knew little until she followed up with extensive research. She has novelized the story in Lavender ~ An Entwined Adventure in Science & Spirit, released in September. I missed her slide presentation about those same dreams at IASD’s 2007 conference in Sonoma, California (I got lost on campus!), but I sure heard about it everywhere the rest of the week. Judy became a dream-studies rock stock that year! In addition to the PsiberDreaming presentation, Judy has agreed to do a book reading for us in NYC—date and location TBA.

You can also still read and discuss papers that were posted during the past week, including “Giving Dreams Sanctuary,” by Dutch psychotherapist Robert Bosnak, who graced IASD-NYC with a talk last January on “Nieuw Amsterdam and the Dream of the Golden Age: An Alchemical Perspective.” Robbie is cofounder of the Santa Barbara Healing Sanctuary. As his PDC paper notes, “This is the first Asklepian residential facility—based primarily on the medicinal potential of dreaming for participants with significant physical illness—to be founded in 1500 years.”

Register for the conference at asdreams.org/psi2011. If you’re not yet an IASD member, join at the same time and the conference is free.

Clichéd question

7 Aug

New York City has at least 14 summer venues for outdoor movies this year. Out of all the films scheduled, only a handful are in black and white, mostly at Bryant Park (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The 39 Steps, The Lady Eve, High Sierra; only the High Sierra screening is still to come, on August 15).

The preponderance of color in film culture for roughly 50 years now may explain why lots of people find the question “Do you dream in color?” a little silly (“Of course I dream in color!” many of us reply). This is the explanation offered by Eric Schwitzgebel in Perplexities of Consciousness, according to Nicholas Humphrey in last week’s New York Times Book Review (“The I of the Beholder,” July 29, 2011, online; July 31, p.17 in print). Humphrey writes of Schwitzgebel’s explanation:

Back in the 1950s most said they dreamed in black and white. Presumably it can hardly be true that our grandparents had different brains that systematically left out the color we put in today. So this must be a matter of interpretation. Yet why such freedom about assigning color? Well, try this for an answer. Suppose that, not knowing quite what dreams are like, we tend to assume they must be like photographs or movies—pictures in the head. Then, when asked whether we dream in color we reach for the most readily available pictorial analogy. Understandably, 60 years ago this might have been black-and-white movies, while for most of us today it is the color version.

Continue reading

Spatial experiences in dreams

24 May
Elephants Dream

From the movie Elephants Dream.© copyright 2006, Netherlands Media Art Institute / http://www.elephantsdream.org

In the better late than never department (I’ve been preoccupied away from the blog for a while)…

In the book Black Elk Speaks, the Sioux holy man recounts a dream he had at a young age, in which the Powers of the World—of the West, the North, the East, and the South—appear to him.

New Yorker Susan Tyburczy holds that story dear to her heart. She enjoys standing at the ocean’s edge and imagining what transpires in the vast space beneath the surface. Being a young sleepwalker and sleeptalker were also precursors to her choice of dissertation topic. In earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Saybrook University, she studied the spatial experiences reported by dreamers.

Susan Tyburczy

Susan Tyburczy, Ph.D.

Dr. Tyburczy, a Staten Island psychotherapist who’s a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, described her research on Sunday, April 3, for IASD’s New York Metro Area group. In the audience were a number of the dreamers from among the 28 she had interviewed for her study. Even the settings of the interviews had had spatial variety—places that ranged from her home to theirs to parks to restaurants (she and I sat in a corner of a diner for hours when I told her my dream). Using the method Susan devised of arranging items to represent the characters, objects, and movement in their dream, one dreamer even laid his out in the trunk of his car. Continue reading

Freudian ordure

11 Apr

“Bathroom” dreams are one of those types that supposedly happen in everyone’s dream life, and synchronistically/precognitively, I had one this morning, although it wasn’t set in a bathroom.

No details will be forthcoming here, but I will explain why the dream was synchronistic. In one of the fits of filing with which I’ve been attacking an old and dreary pile of papers, I came across half an article I’d cut out of The New York Observer‘s culture pages at some indeterminate date earlier this year. The exhibit described, of art about math, still sounds interesting, so I went online to determine whether I’ve missed it. I haven’t: it’s “Proofs and Refutations” at David Zwirner Gallery, through April 23.

The first half of the article, which I didn’t cut out, is about an exhibit at the Algus Greenspon Gallery, also through April 23. Says Observer writer Will Heinrich (“The Offal Truth,” March 22, 2011):

Since the 1990s, inspired by a reference in The Interpretation of Dreams, the English performance artist Stuart Brisley has been constructing a “Collection of Ordure.” Several prime examples of his collection—one is tempted to say “ripe,” but they’re odorless—are on display in the Village…

 

The Rubin’s Dream-Over

7 Mar
Medicine Buddha. © The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

Medicine Buddha. © The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

It was sold out early,  so I didn’t get to go to the adult sleepover last Saturday night (March 5) that was part of the dream-themed Brainwave 2011 series at the Rubin Museum of Art. Fortunately, WNYC reported on it. Read and listen here.